Saturday, September 29, 2012

How Much Energy Do You Really Need?

This Dare To Escape topic addresses our current use of energy in electric power and considers ways we may both reduce our expense in producing energy and overall usage while not sacrificing quality of life in the use of electric power. We do this through means of employing renewable resources off grid such as a turbine windmill, solar cell implementation, so that we can effectively live off the grid on the homestead.
Currently I live alone, but I know what it is like to live in a house full of people. Energy usage is through the roof. Granted, most of my experience comes from energy usage as it applies to electrical power from the power company, and not from renewable resources such as a solar cell or a windmill turbine. But, since most of us come from this venue, it will make more sense if we identify how we are currently using electric power so that we can see how we might augment our behavior. Remember, we have selfish reasons for doing these things as well as environmental reasons. I think most of us will be moved more by our own savings, rather than by our intent to save the Earth, unfortunately. In the end, though, it will work out to be just as noble as if you had set out on the more spiritual mission of saving the Earth.
Lets start with our daily routine, from the time we wake up until we retire at night. First thing in the morning, and electric powered alarm clock goes off and we stumble out of bed. We take an electric powered toothbrush, and an electric powered razor and start to do wonderful things to our faces, as we gaze at our reflection in a mirror illuminated by four 100 watt bulbs. We are not even out of the bathroom yet and the meter is spinning so fast that it threatens to take off from the side of the house like a helicopter. We have been awake exactly five minutes and already we have built the case for Making Your Own Power. But we can all see that if we continue this level of usage throughout the day, it is both outrageous and expensive. Back to our day: Next, after we have showered with heated power that is either directly or indirectly supplied by electric power, we stumble into the kitchen. Immediately we turn on the coffee bean grinder and grind our beans, then we turn on the coffee pot after we have got the grind ready to go. Keep in mind, that from the time we got out of bed, we have also turned on the bedside lamp, the bedroom overhead light, the bathroom spotlights, and the kitchen lights.
Perish the thought that we have not yet turned on our 42 inch plasma television yet! We have to know what traffic is like and what the weather forecast for the day is. We may have a radio on in the other room. Oops! We forgot to dry something in the electric dryer! We better do that now. We turn down the air conditioner thermostat so that the house will be cool when we get home. We run the vacuum cleaner just before we head out the door to go to work.
It is not yet 8:00 am. That is when work starts, but it is not even 8 o'clock yet. We have not even made the commute yet. We have not been awake for two hours yet. We have used more energy in the last hour and 45 minutes than we would have used all day, if we had just been a little more energy conscious. But you need not yell at me for being a tree hugger. I love trees, and I want to preserve them, but that is not the point. The point is, you have spent your hard-earned money needlessly, when you could have been just as comfortable without letting your dollars bleed out a hole in your home.
We do not need to cover the energy you use during the day, although we could, since we are really using it there. But the boss is having to pay for our flagrant energy use there. He may even encourage it. We did not mention how we use energy during that 10 hours we are home on our days off. This would be a book if we tried to cover that.
Then we get home. This is almost as bad. We may blend something in the electric blender to drink or eat. We turn on the electric stove to cook our supper. We turn on the 42 inch plasma television for the next four hours. And we, our spouses, and our children have left lights on in every room in the house. We have spotlights on outside the house to illuminate the vegetation and bricks on the exterior walls. We have the air conditioning turned down so low that we snuggle under blankets with lamps on in the living room. And, because nobody in the house wants to watch the same thing, the other three house occupants are in their separate rooms with their lamps on, their televisions and computers blazing, or their gameboy going.
Although this may sound like a rant, please believe me when I say I am not on a rant. I think that none of us, me included, understand just how much electric power we consider to be a "need," when in fact, we could do with so much less.
Since we are a society that focuses on entertainment and convenience, we facilitate that through a hugely excessive use of electric power, which in turn costs us more of our money, which in turn makes us work harder and longer hours. This is not about saving the Earth.
This is about saving ourselves.
I think all of us can freely admit we could do with a lot less energy usage. Our parents did. Remember how they were always on us about how much energy we used? And the thing is, if we can make ourselves use less energy, then the amount of money we will need to maintain our lifestyles will decrease. Our lives become easier because we do not have to work as much to produce the money we need to live.
What Really Uses Energy?
When you go out into nature, and I do mean the wilderness, you will notice something if you look closely enough. There is bright sunshine on a good day, but nature does not seem to have a lot of major hangups. You don't see the trees plugging things in. The squirrels are not chugging around on mopeds looking for nuts. The birds have not sprouted propellers in their beaks to make them fly. The rivers do not require pumps. The flowers seem to get by just fine without a Jobe's plant spike. Seems facetious? I mean it to be so. If we saw nature cavorting with these antics, we would laugh all the louder, and why? Well, truth to tell, we would laugh at the ABSURDITY of it all!
Are we absurd? Do we go to absurd lengths in our use of energy? Let me put this another way. I love Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. I love them in an absurd way. When I want a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, I do not eat just one. I do not eat just two. Actually, I am embarrassed to tell you how many of them I do eat. But it is absurd to ponder the amount of Reeses Peanut Butter Cups I eat when I eat them. My point is that our Western minds have taught us that if a little is good, more is better, and a whole truckload is a whole lot better! We feel that way about how we pig out when we go to an All You Can Eat restaurant, and truly, we feel that way when we plug our appliances and toys into the wall. You may think that these problems will not even be worth considering once you have decided to go with Doing It Yourself Solar. Truly, once you start making your own electric power, once you start making your own renewable resources, whether they be a solar cell or a windmill turbine, you are no longer on the fancy space-age grid. You are generating power at a more primitive level, and you will need to start evaluating the necessity of every kilowatt you produce and use. You will need to start getting a handle on your usage because you do not want the expense of filling up your acreage with solar panels or wind turbines.
Above, I asked a question. What Really Uses Energy? Well, it isn't the trees. The squirrels do not need it. Neither do the birds. There are no trout popping up out of the stream needing to make an urgent call on their cell phones.
People use electric power energy. That is you. That is me. No other being on earth makes use of it, unless you count some aquatic life that uses it to ward off a predator, or to get prey.
We all use energy, but we really only use it effectively where we are located. Many public buildings come equipped with motion detectors that turn the lights off after no motion is detected in a room. That is because the designers realize that people use electric power. The empty room certainly does not need it. What if we only used light where we were? What if we only used cooling and heating where we were located? What if, instead of having to have 42 inches of plasma television screens projecting at us, we could make do with 10 or 15 inches that was powered by the wind turbine or the solar cell?
There is nothing to be afraid of here. You can do whatever you want to do. If you want to pay for more energy than you can actually use, that is certainly your prerogative. But if you think that you could save some real money, both on the front end of producing your power, and on the back end in actual usage, then we may have some real considerations to ponder.
The money you save now could finance your Next Big Thing. That is something worth having.
How To Use Only The Electric Power You Need
When I concentrate on minimal electric power, it usually involves going camping. When I go camping, I have either a crank light, a shaker light, or a solar powered flashlight that has a solar cell in it that recharges during the day.
That is what I use for light. I need that light for if I want to read after sunset, or if I need to take a short walk into the bush in the dark.
Light was the first use of electricity for mankind. Before that time, mankind went to bed about the same time the chickens do, because he was in tune with the daily cycle of the sun. At the first use of electrical power, we lighted the streets, we started having our first evening church services, business started staying open later, and people gradually lost their need to retire immediately after sunset.
You may make use of renewable resources in this way. If you use a flower bed light or set of lights with a solar cell in them, then you know they charge during the day and shine at night until the battery loses its charge. That is a perfect use for light off the grid and on the property you may be looking to occupy.
There are all kinds of ways you can implement your own Home Energy Kit. And it does not have to just be with light. You will probably want to create your own off grid renewable resources, such as solar power, and electric power generating wind turbines to round out all your power needs. It takes a little expense, a little sweat equity, and a little knowledge.
You can use light only where you are, and not have to light up the entire five acres. If you have a smaller screen on your computer, such as a small laptop, or a smaller screen for a television, you will not need as much power to run it. You may have to sit a little closer to it to get the same effect. I personally have never understood the reasons behind having a 72 inch television set just so you could sit 30 feet away from it anyhow.
They still make windup alarm clocks, did you know that? You could use that to wake yourself up, if you have a need to keep a waking schedule. If you can adjust your schedule so that you can use daylight to look in the mirror, you could eliminate the need for those huge vanity lights around your bathroom. If you make sure you live in a climate where extreme temperatures do not prevail, you may find that you can adequately condition your air through the use of open windows and strategically placed housing on your property.
So it appears that about the only thing you may actually HAVE to consider is refrigerating or freezing your food. But you know, that 150 years ago, people did no such thing? They canned, preserved, dried, and had other ways of preserving their food. Also, we should keep in mind that probably 80 percent of our current electric power bill comes from either air conditioning or refrigeration.
It would appear that we have almost eliminated most of the punch out of our electric power bill! That means we will not have to spend our life savings coming up with a system that will provide for all of our energy needs.
This is truly good news, and all we had to do was think about it just a little bit. It is always easier to do a little less than it is to have to come up with more. We were not approaching this from a conservationist stance of a moral nature. We are approaching this from the impact on our wallet. We know that the less money we need in our wallet, the less time we have to work for someone else to put money in that wallet.
I do not know about you, but not having to work for someone else sounds sweet to me!
When You Only Use What Electric Power You Need Conservatively, and With Renewable Resources, Your Expense Decreases Greatly.
We have covered this a little, but if you will only look into using a turbine, solar cell technology, a windmill or a hydra water wheel, so that you can live off grid on the country acreage you are going to live on, it may seem more primitive than you have been used to, but that will not last that long. Before long you will realize just how overboard you were with energy usage, just like I am with Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. After all, I don't have to eat 24 of the snack sized Reeses every time I get a hankering. I could easily eat only eight!
If we begin to live as though the quality of our lives depended upon how little we waste, therefore affecting the cash flow of our wallet, we would enjoy much more freedom.
We begin to remove ourselves from the on gridded infrastructure and start to ultimately take responsibility for our own lives and actions. We save ourselves some money and we gain ourselves a lot more freedom. And that is why when we Dare To Escape, the sense of impending and overwhelming freedom we are not used to just moves us to tears.

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